Beyond Recidivism: Changes in Health and Social Service Involvement Following Exposure to Drug Treatment Court

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Rezansoff SN, Moniruzzaman A, Clark E, Somers JM. Beyond recidivism: changes in health and social service involvement following exposure to drug treatment court. Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy. 2015 Oct 31;10:42. doi: 10.1186/s13011-015-0038-x.

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Drug treatment court
Substance use treatment
Drug-involved offenders
Concurrent disorders
Social determinants of health


The majority of Drug Treatment Court (DTC) research has examined the impact of DTCs on criminal recidivism. Comparatively little research has addressed the association between DTC participation and engagement with community-based health and social services. The present study investigated changes in participant involvement with outpatient healthcare and income assistance within a DTC cohort. We hypothesized that involvement with community-based (outpatient) health and social services would increase post-DTC participation, and that service levels would be higher among program graduates and offenders with histories of co-occurring mental and substance use disorders.


Participants were 631 offenders at the DTC in Vancouver, Canada (DTCV). Administrative data representing hospital, outpatient medical care, and income assistance were examined one-year pre/post program to assess differences over time. Generalized estimating equations were used to investigate the association between changes in service use and program involvement. We also examined the relationship between level of service use and offender characteristics.


Members of the cohort were disproportionately Aboriginal (33 %), had been sentenced 2.7 times in the 2 years preceding their index offence, and 50 % had been diagnosed with a non substance-related mental disorder in the five years preceding the index offence. The mean number of outpatient services post DTCV was 51, and the mean amount of social assistance paid was $5,897. Outpatient service use increased following exposure to DTCV (Adjusted Rate Ratio (ARR) = 1.45) and was significantly higher among women (ARR = 1.47), program graduation (ARR = 1.23), and those previously diagnosed with concurrent substance use and mental disorders (ARR = 4.92). Overall, hospital admissions did not increase post-program, although rates were significantly higher among women (ARR = 1.76) and those with concurrent disorders (ARR = 2.71). Income assistance increased significantly post program (ARR = 1.16), and was significantly higher among women (ARR = 1.03), and those diagnosed with substance use disorders (ARR = 1.42) and concurrent disorders (ARR = 1.72).


These findings suggest that the DTCV was a catalyst for increased participant engagement with community health and social supports, and that rates of service use were consistently higher among women and individuals with concurrent disorders. Research is needed to investigate the potential link between health and social support and reductions in recidivism associated with DTCs.

Document type: 
British Columbia Ministry of Justice
Department of Justice Canada
British Columbia Inter-Ministry Research Initiative
Vancouver Drug Treatment Court